Review: Allergic Girl: adventures in living well with food allergies
John Wiley & Sons
Sloane Miller is the Carrie Bradshaw of food allergy. I am not a fan of “Sex in the City” (as my daughter will tell you) so I don’t say that lightly. However, I recognize what the character means as a role model for young women as they struggle to find themselves. Through her blog allergicgirl.com and now this book, Ms. Miller (whom I have met on two occasions) occupies an equally important niche for people with food allergies. Drawing bravely on her own 30+ years of allergic life and her training as a social worker, she has come up with a convincing paradigm that is cautious and sensible but well worth living. Girls may or may not just wanna’ have fun, but they wanna’ have it without the risk of sneezing, wheezing, hives or anaphylaxis. Allergic Girl proves that they can; follow her on Twitter and you will see.
The wisdom here is hard-won. The growth of organizations like FAAN and particularly the rise of the Internet make this a comparative golden age for information about food allergies. But Miller had to make her way from early childhood without an organized body of support, and she remembers the journey vividly. She combines two perspectives, that of the inside-out food allergy patient and the outside-in social worker, in a breezy, blog-tested prose style, well-suited for conveying her useful mix of anecdotes and lessons, which is just right for countering the gloom and isolation that pervades many food allergy families. I was particularly touched by the Italian family with rampant celiac disease, which precludes eating pasta and bread. Miller is also sympathetic to the plight of guys in her account of the gluten-allergic poker player, who had to abstain from beer and pretzels. The story of finding a “safe person” in that crowd is a regular “bromance.”
Allergic Girl is full of experience-based codes for every conceivable event, from dating etiquette, including the risks of smooching, to deflecting the grossly insensitive behavior of relatives who somehow think it’s all in your mind. You may want to slug them, but Miller shows how to change the subject without giving in.
If I have any reservations about the book at all, they lie in the area of building the kind of medical team Miller describes. Not all of America has the kind of rich pool of talent to draw on that will allow readers to interview and reject doctors, the way New York City does (for now). Still, this book provides the tools that will enable patients to get the best out of their own health care providers as medical science and practice forge ahead. As we say around here, better information makes better patients and better patients make their doctors better at their jobs, too.
See the promotional video here.
Buy the book here.